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Adrian Pang: From Hollywood to home

Amidst his preparations for a packed line-up of productions, Adrian took some time out to share with Weekender about life as one of Singapore’s leading actors and comedians

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He may be the face of your favourite funny characters, but talented thespian Adrian Pang takes life very seriously. When he’s not busy rehearsing, he’s rushing about planning new pantomimes and acting with big screen A-listers.

In a surprise Hollywood appearance that shook up the heartlands, Adrian acted in a cameo role in cybercrime movie Blackhat, alongside Chris Hemsworth (Thor in Avengers) and pop star Wang Lee Hom.

More recently, Adrian appears in controversial Ken Kwek film Unlucky Plaza as bigoted motivational speaker Terence Chia, who gets taken hostage by a distraught expatriate.

I sat down for a chat with Adrian, who spilled the beans on his exciting life behind the scenes.

What have you been busy with recently?

I just finished doing a play at the Esplanade, The Weight of Silk on Skin, and I’m starting rehearsals for my theatre company’s next play, called Tribes, on from May 22 to June 7 – since you asked! There’s a lot [of work]!

Were there any unlucky incidents during the filming of Unlucky Plaza?

We were filming in a lovely house on top of a hill that was just five minutes from mine, so I used to cycle to set every day. One evening, I went a little bit out of control and I smashed into a hedge, scratched my leg and tore my trousers quite badly. But luckily my hair was okay. [laughs] They gave me a really nice haircut – I really, really like it – but I can’t replicate it on my own.

What made you decide to accept this role?

That Ken Kwek fellow la! I’ve known Ken for a few years, and we share the same sense of slightly screwed-up sense of humour – we see the world in a similar warped way. I read [the script] and thought it was a lot of fun.


Do you sympathise with your arrogant character in the film?

What I can sympathise with is his one redeeming feature – he loves his wife. In every other sense he just seems to be an a-hole. But what surprised me is how devoted to his wife he is. When I read the script, I thought, “Aww.”

I’ve been married for 20 years – I would be nothing without my wife, Tracy. She’s just gone away with my two sons for a week, and I feel lost!

You often play caricatures of unlikeable or unpopular characters. How do you get inspired for these roles?

Just by observing people around me. [laughs] There are a lot of people I don’t like, so it’s great to be inspired by all these people around me!

It’s [also] important to find out why this character behaves this way, and what in his past led him to become the person that he is. We’re all at least 50 shades of something.

How did you end up acting in Blackhat beside Chris Hemsworth?

[laughs] I got a call asking if I would look at the script and record myself, so I just did it. A couple of weeks later I was told that I was going to be flying off to Hong Kong to do this thing.

That was cool. How was this Hollywood experience, seeing it wasn’t your first?

Michael Mann was interesting. He was a bit of a nutcase – I mean, he’s a wonderful man. When we get on set he would look at my costume and say, “No, it doesn’t look right,” and he sent me back to the costume department.

And Colleen Atwood – a multiple Oscar-winning costume designer – had no idea what to do for this man. He was auditioning T-shirts! It took a few days before I was properly doing any work, but he was very personable when it came down to it.

Which Hollywood actor would you like to star alongside next?

That’s really tough. I’ve had so many movie heroes from young.

The actor I used to worship as a hero was Robert De Niro. But in later years there’s been other actors whose work I greatly admire: Gary Oldman, Daniel Day Lewis and Matthew McConaughey.

You’ll be starring in the upcoming LKY Musical. How has your preparation for this role changed recently?

The script itself is still a work in progress. [But] just as with any other role that I play, it’s important to find the humanity of the role. Everybody’s got their own perception of the man, and I can’t do anything to change those perceptions. All I can do is to do my job and hope for the best.

Unlucky Plaza is showing in theatres now, with a rating of M18 for coarse language.

By Pamela Chow